Appalling Escalation in Violence across Nigeria Leading Up to Easter Sunday Celebration | Persecution

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Appalling Escalation in Violence across Nigeria Leading Up to Easter Sunday Celebration

04/17/2014 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that Islamic insurgency and U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) Boko Haram has unleashed a series of attacks upon the peoples of Nigeria throughout the 2014 Easter Holy Week. In less than seven calendar days, Boko Haram has: kidnapped two priests and a nun from a rural Catholic school on the Nigerian-Cameroonian border; murdered eight teachers in an attack on a teaching college in Dikwa; attacked northern Nigerian villages in Borno State, allegedly killing 130 innocents; massacred 71 and destroyed more than 30 vehicles in the nation’s capital city of Abuja; and conducted a mass-kidnapping of 243 girls from a government secondary school in Maiduguri.

On the night of April 4th, an armed band of Boko Haram members raided a small Catholic parish in Tchéré, Cameroon, taking hostage and then kidnapping three members of the clergy: Canadian native, Sister Gilberte Bussiere, age 75, and Italian natives, fathers Giampaolo Marta, age 47, and Gianantonio Allegri, age 57. Following the raid and ransacking of several Catholic buildings, the band made its way with the three clergy toward the Nigerian border, confirming suspicions the attack was sponsored by Boko Haram. An initial helicopter search, conducted the weekend of the 5th by Cameroonian security forces, failed to locate the three clergy. Their location and respective conditions, as well as the perpetrators’ intent for keeping them, remain unknown.

On the night of April 10th, Boko Haram militants raided a teaching compound in Dikwa, murdering the eight teachers present at the time of the attack and burning the compound’s library to the ground. The first of a series of attacks across Borno State, Boko Haram proceeded to raid two villages near the Nigerian-Cameroonian border, killing an additional 130 civilians according to Borno State Senator Ahmed Zannah.

On the morning of April 14th, a series of bombs exploded at a busy bus terminal in Abuja, violently setting 16 luxury- and 14 mini-buses ablaze, killing 71 and wounding more than 130. The historic attack marked the first day of the Holy Passion week of the Easter holiday as the first major Boko Haram attack to occur within the nation’s capital. Though secular news outlets and human rights organizations are unclear as to Boko Haram’s reason for the bombing, Christian rights groups continue to make clear the attack specifically targeted Christian worshippers traveling with friends and family in respect of the Holy Week.

In a statement released the day of the bombing, the Christian Association of Nigerian-Americans, a Christian advocacy group based in Washington D.C. that specifically addresses issues regarding Nigeria, read “this killing was set as Christians…entered into the Passion Week leading to the Resurrection Sunday, Easter celebrations… families who had expectations of a happy reunion during this time of Christian celebrations are being forcefully fed this cup of sorrow.”

On the night of April 14th, more than 100 armed Boko Haram insurgents abducted 243 students from an all-girls secondary school sponsored by the Nigerian government after shooting their way past the compound’s security staff. The abduction lasted approximately six hours as the kidnappers hand-selected from the more than 250 students, loading abductees into the backs of military-grade trucks to be driven into the woods toward the Nigerian-Cameroonian border. As of the time of this release, more than 80 of those abducted have been recovered by a search party composed primarily of vigilantes and local soldiers. ICC has so far been unable to confirm the religious demography of those kidnapped.

Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is a sin,” continues to pursue its goal of carving out a separate Islamic state from Nigeria’s northern regions to establish its ultra-conservative interpretation of Sharia law with brutal vengeance. The insurgency, a U.S.-designated FTO, often targets schools, government institutions and religious minorities—mostly Christians—as part of a broader strategy to create a purely Islamic society in northern Nigeria. In 2014 alone, it’s estimated more than 1,500 people have been murdered by Boko Haram, many of whom are known Christians whose communities have been pillaged and churches set ablaze.

ICC’s Regional Manager, William Stark, said, “The events of this week once again prove Boko Haram’s the unrelenting and uncompromising willingness to commit crimes against humanity in pursuit of its goal to establish a separate Islamic state ruled by Sharia Law. While ICC continues to join the international community in calling for a return to a peaceful Nigeria, we cannot refuse to recognize the Nigerian State’s inability to provide the security necessary to ensure prosperous living for the nation’s Christians and other minority religions. If Nigeria continues to fail to respond to Boko Haram in any meaningful way, Nigeria may be destined to civil war with a north ruled by radical Islamists, and all that entails.”

For interviews, contact William Stark: RM-AfricaAsia@persecution.org

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